I thought I’d start a new series about being an aunt. There are a lot of mommy blogs but nothing really about (or for) aunts and the children that they love.
I’ve got a niece. She’s two and I think she’s fabulous. The Auntie Chronicles will be about the relationship between the two of us. I expect a lot of it will be her asking me to do things and me doing them because I’m a suck.
I wrote this article earlier this year but unfortunately it didn’t make it to publication.
My sister-in-law Barbara recently posted on Facebook, "I think Sofia yelling apple in front of an Apple store may have something to do with her auntie."
I immediately posted, "Uh, sorry about that?" Despite Sofia having two aunts, I knew I was the guilty party because I entertain my two-year-old niece by opening and closing my Macbook, making the apple logo light up and her laugh.
Considering I seem to inadvertently indoctrinated my niece into the Apple cult, it raises the question, how much influence can and should an aunt or uncle have on their nieces and nephews?
Melanie Notkin is the author of the new book Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids. She is also the founder of SavvyAuntie.com
In her book, Notkin describes how when she became an aunt, she went looking for a badge of honour to express her aunthood. She couldn’t find anything except a onesie that said, "If you think I’m cute, you should see my aunt."
Her research led her to discover that while many aunts love, sacrifice and adore their nieces and nephews they didn’t have the network that parenthood automatically granted.
"Aunthood is a gift," says Notkin from New York. "We don’t appreciate it in ourselves but no child ever suffered from too much love."
But how much influence do aunts and uncles have on their nieces and nephews’ lives?
Notkin says, "It depends on the aunt or uncle and part of that is because there’s no obligation of the aunt or uncle, unlike parenting; once you parent a child you have a legal obligation."
That doesn’t stop aunts and uncles from being involved in their nephews and nieces’ lives
Dana Bentley is the aunt of two boys, Nigel, 16 and Ethan, six. While she and her husband Drew are childfree, she plays a role in her nephews’ lives.
"I’m not as close as I’d like to be, although I’m the only family member whom Nigel has friended so maybe it’s better than I think. Nigel has Asperger’s Syndrome, so it’s really hard to tell how he thinks of others. Ethan will actually listen to me when he’s being a hellcat."
Nigel has asked for advice on friends and parents, which is pretty cool. Ethan is at an age where he seems to be judging people on what they will give him, mostly. His mom had to put a cat down during one of our visits there which was very sad, and Drew and I were the only people Ethan wanted to talk to about it. Which is also pretty cool, although I wish it had been better circumstances."
Uncles aren’t left out out of the equations. Every time I see a friend of mine he’s more than happy to pull out his blackberry and show me pictures of his two-year-old niece and baby nephew. Of course, I take out my blackberry and show him pictures of my niece.
"The more aunts and uncles the child has, the more influences a child has," says Notkin. "If the uncle is a fantastic artist, the child may be inspired by that talent."
Stephen Carver who works in media and public relations fully expects to influence his young nieces. "At this point in time it’s not obvious as they’re still so young but I hope to be an influence someday. I’ll be the one who will pass along useless info they won’t get from their parents like pop culture stuff and the latest lifestyle trends."
One of the best things about auntie-dom is that you don’t have to be related. Liv Uhrig was happy to talk about the relationship she has with her best friend’s 16-year-old daughter.
"We’re quite close but she is 16 so anyone 20 and older isn’t cool enough. Her mom has been my best friend for almost ten years. We’re exceptionally close, which is really how Bri and I ended up being that close. It doesn’t matter that we’re not related by blood. I’ve seen her grow up, struggle and succeed. Caring about her like I do just came naturally."
So while aunts and uncles happily involve themselves in their nieces and nephews’ lives, what about the parents and their relationship with the aunts and uncles in their lives? Stephanie Mackenzie-Smith is the mother of two young children and describes her brother as the “best uncle ever.”
"My brother is a 34-year-old confirmed bachelor and military officer – not necessarily the type of guy you imagine as the perfect uncle, but he is literally my daughter’s hero. My son is still a bit young but my daughter is very much influenced by her uncle. At school this year, Charlotte was asked to write a story about someone she felt was a hero. Of course, she picked her Uncle Colin. The fact that he is in the military has little to do with why she sees him as a hero. To her, he’s a hero because he gives the best hugs ever, swings her around by her feet and "plays crafts"".
Notkin says that’s the best thing about being an aunt or an uncle. "A child doesn’t discriminate when it comes to love."
As part of Notkin’s Savvy Auntie brand, Auntie’s Day was launched on July 26th, 2009. You can find out more at www.Auntiesday.com